NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Income inequality is a touchstone topic for political office-seekers (and would-be keepers) in this election year. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening, and politicians aren't really sure what to do.
And what a gap it is. According to a Brookings Institution study, most big cities -- including Washington, D.C., New York, Oakland, Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore -- have an alarming gap in income between the rich and poor. In Atlanta, for example, the wealthiest 5% of households earned more than $280,000 in 2012, while the poorest 20% earned less than $15,000.
A separate study from MoneyRates.com shows that income inequality "has risen in nearly all U.S. states over the past 10 years." That study cites Washington, D.C., as the most glaring example of wealthy vs. poor income gaps, saying "a worker in the top 25th percentile for income earned at least 2.6 times what a worker in the bottom 25th percentile makes," or $102,980 vs. $36,690.
Yet a report from Queendom, a Montreal, Canada-based psychological testing firm, says the rich, poor and middle class share basically the same sentiments on charity and helping others. For example, 61% of low-income Canadians will "regularly do favors for others without being asked," compared with 59% of middle-class study respondents and 58% of wealthy respondents.
In addition, 67% of lower-income Canadians agree "it's easy to put themselves in someone else's shoes" right alongside of 70% of middle-income and 69% of high-income respondents.
People from all income classes also say they don't want to profit from someone else's misfortune. Only 6% of lower-income earners and 5% of wealthy individuals say they would keep a wallet containing cash and credit cards they found on the street.
Study researchers -- based on answers people gave in one survey, of course -- say the amount of money you earn isn't as big a factor in determining one's "charitable impulses" as previously thought.
"Our personality impacts every aspect of our life -- the choices we make, the people we surround ourselves with, the career we pursue, the way we respond to life experiences, the way we manage our finances and whether or not we share our good fortune," says Ilona Jerabek, president of Queendom.com. But "money doesn't make a person more or less selfish. If you are a genuinely kind and giving person, you'll continue to be that way no matter how many zeros are on your paycheck."
You can find out for yourself how you fare as "an egoist or an altruist" as Queendom puts it. Take the test here.